Election Observation Missions

The Team

The Events:
Azerbaijan mission
Ukraine mission
Macedonia mission

Elections are democracy in action. Although the process itself – counting ballots and comparing numbers – might be considered boring, the results, outcome and effect of fair elections is the very basis upon which democracy is build.

This project wants to deliver a contribution to the observation of elections in nascent Eastern European democracies. It will educate participants about the development of democracy in Eastern Europe, and about democratic processes in general, and inspire them to take a closer interest in the democratic processes they themselves are involved in.

Objectives of the project

To employ students from all over the European continent as election observers, thus contributing to the insurance of a fair outcome, in these crucial elections. Furthermore, we seek to foster an exchange of experience in the development of democratic governance, with local NGO’s and other partners that work in the field. Above all, we seek to establish election observing as something permanent in AEGEE, and develop our strategy towards other crucial elections in the future, especially in Ukraine and Belarus, as well as Caucasus area.

The Team

Selene Biffi AEGEE - Tartu
Olaf Koens AEGEE - Leuven
Stefan May AEGEE - Dresden
Juscha Basedow AEGEE - Maastricht
Burcu Inan AEGEE - Ankara

Azerbaijan Mission

For the Parliamentary elections of the Republic of Azerbaijan, November 6th 2005, a group from AEGEE (European Students' Forum, aegee.org) took part in a mission organized by Lymec (European Liberal Youth, lymec.org), to contribute to free and fair elections.

Our accredited international mission was able to monitor polling stations thoroughly. They developed a specific understanding of the electoral process at a district level. Supported by 10 local assistants, the team of 33 observers from AEGEE, Lymec and Silba (a Danish cross-political NGO) exclusively focused on three districts in the northern border region of Azerbaijan.

The observers operating in the districts Qusar (51), Khachmaz City (55) and Khachmaz rural area (56) identified five main concerns:

1. Interference of local observers and local administration in the work of the Election Commissions.

2. Insufficient respect of the status of local Election Observers by the electoral commission. This resulted in an inappropriate working environment in which Local Election Observers did not have the same access to information as International Observers.

3. Obligatory and involuntary collection and delivery of registered citizens and soldiers to polling stations either by foot or special bus services provided by the local administration or those associated with them.

4. Strong and malevolent pressure set on voters to vote for candidates backed by the local administration.
Methods used:
a) Members of the local administration were engaging voters prior to their voting directly in front of the polling station;
b) Local Observers representing YAP (New Azerbaijan Party), the chosen candidate, or claiming to be independent, making eye contact, hand-shakes and thanking each voter immediately after their vote next to the ballot box;
c) Members of the local administration or those associated with them instructing voters how to vote, during obligatory transportation to the stations, or by visiting their houses in advance;
d) Uniformed members of the police visiting the private residence of each voter in a methodical manner and instructing them how to vote, as well as in attendance directly outside polling stations;
e) Additionally, a large number of voters provided information of a long-term campaign to coerce people to vote for officially supported candidates, corroborating evidence provided in the Long Term Observer report of the OSCE.

5. Poor adherence to electoral process at all stages of the short-term observation by the Electoral Commissions which resulted in a lack of trust in the confidentiality and impact of the individual vote on the electoral process.

AEGEE would like to express its gratitude to both Lymec and Silba, for making this joint mission a success. The team of 33 observers were accredited as the only youth organization conducting election observation in Azerbaijan.

We hope that AEGEE in the future can take a leading role in empowering young people to be involved in election observation. AEGEE will continue its election observation missions and contribute to the development of democracy on the European continent.

Ukraine Mission

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AEGEE International Election Observation Mission
preliminary report

Parliamentary Elections – Ukraine – March 26th 2006

Odessa, March 28th, 2006: AEGEE, in cooperation with the DiDEEfoundation (didee.org), has undertaken an international electionobservation mission to the parliamentary elections of March 26, 2006in Odessa, Ukraine.

This statement should be considered preliminary and is issued prior tothe full and final analysis of observers? findings of the ElectionDay. The final version will appear no later then six weeks afterElection Day.

Preliminary conclusions
The March 26th Ukrainian parliamentary elections seemed to have beenconducted without signs of major fraud or intentional manipulation ofthe vote.
The polls were taking place in a generally calm atmosphere. AEGEE believes that this election has generally reflected the will ofthe Ukrainian people. This is confirmed by the rating by electionobservers of the conduct at polling stations as between ' good' and 'very good' in the majority of cases.
AEGEE believes that major steps have been taken in Ukraine toconsolidate democracy, and that in Odessa these elections have come along way in fulfilling the OSCE commitments and have generallyconformed to national legislation.

Within the time-frame of our Short Term Observation:

- There did not seem to be any substantial or systematic misuse ofadministrative resources during these elections.
- There did not seem to be any systematic pattern of intimidation ofvoters, even though some incidents did occur.
- There did not seem to be any fraud related to mobile ballot boxesnor any serious problems in the registration of people voting throughsuch mobile ballot boxes.

However, there are still serious issues to be addressed:
- The opening of several polling stations was delayed between up tofifty minutes.
- There were serious problems regarding voter lists, especiallyconsidering citizens registration, due to incorrect translation fromRussian to Ukrainian or due to people not mentioned on the list.
- There were several incidents in which security forces andun-authorized personnel were present inside the polling station.
- There was one instance in which a team of observers felt directlythreatened by the presence of several 'observers' from a certain partythat had taken up a prominent place in front of the ballot boxesinside the polling stations
- There were many cases in which people voted with several people inone booth at the same time.
- Problems emerged due to the large amount of posters of candidateinformation; it was not properly displayed and/or incomplete.
- The polling stations were in many cases over-crowded. This wasleading to chaos and people voting outside of the booths, notrespecting the secrecy of vote.
- There was one case in which an international observation team wasdenied access to a specific part of the polling station, the roomwhere the commission would gather.
- The team of election observers visiting the polling station situatedin a prison was forbidden to take their camera or mobile phones withthem.
- Several ballot boxes were not properly sealed, either seals wereabsent, and replaced by paper seals.
- There was one case in which the seal on a mobile ballot box had beendamaged. There was another case in which only one seal was present ona regular ballot box.
- in several cases the ballot boxes were obscured from the electionobservers due to large crowds or bad design of polling stations.
- Observers were asked for advice several times by members of theelection commission.

During the closing of the polling stations in the run-up to andespecially during the counting procedure major shortcomings wereobserved:

a. The complicated procedure and the lack of clarity resulted in anextreme duration of the counting procedure and confusion among thoseresponsibleb. The work of the commission was largely hindered by mental anphysical exhaustion.

Mission information:
Our mission consisted of 27 international accredited electionobservers from 13 countries from all over the European continent, aswell as 15 local volunteers. All work was done voluntarily.
The observers monitored the electoral process in over 80 pollingstations within Odessa city. The goal of this project is to help ensure free and fair elections inUkraine through monitoring the electoral process to assess compliancewith international standards for democratic elections as well as thenational legislation. Furthermore, we seek to foster an exchange ofexperience in the development of democratic governance, with youngpeople, local NGO's and other partners that work in the field.
The international observers were well prepared for their work throughan `election information package`, a mailing list and throughseminars. The trainings took place during the two days prior to theelections. The first day of training consisted of meetings withrepresentatives of political parties and NGOs. These includedgrass-root political activists, NGO activists as well as candidates.The second day consisted of five seminars.

Organizational background
AEGEE (Association des Etas Generaux des Etudiants de l`Europe)founded 1985, is one of the biggest interdisciplinary studentassociations in Europe; represented by 17.000 students, active in 241academic cities, in 40 countries all around the European continent.AEGEE is a secular, non-profit organization, not linked to anypolitical party. All projects and activities are based on thevoluntary work of its members. AEGEE operates in four fields ofaction: cultural exchange, active citizenship, higher education andpeace and stability. Previously, AEGEE organized election observationmissions to the second round of the presidential elections in Ukraine(2004), the parliamentary elections in Albania (2005) and took part ina joined mission to the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan (2005).

DiDEE (Dutch Initiative for Democracy in Eastern Europe) is a Dutchnon-governmental, non-partisan volunteer organization that facilitatesyoung people to become active in democratization in Eastern Europe. DiDEE has been active in supporting election observation missions in(among others) Ukraine (2004), Azerbaijan (2005) and Russia/Moscow(2005).

Macedonia Mission

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Preliminary report of AEGEE-Europe (??????????? ?? ???????? ?????????? ?????????) on the elections held in Republic of Macedonia.
On 5th of July 2006, the Election observation mission of AEGEE-Europe in cooperation with AEGEE-Skopje (????-??????), conducted the observation mission on the 5th Parliamentary elections in Republic of Macedonia, on whom voters will elect 120 representatives for the Parliament. The voting was conducted on 6 major districts uniting 2790 electoral points. 16 observers (6 foreign and 10 local ones) visited about 40 election points on the territory of the election district 1. This report summarises the experience of the accredited international observers of AEGEE.
? General impression.
o Well organized in matter of logistic.
o Security measurements taken by officials, even more than in some western democracies .
o Clear voting procedure .
o Democratic atmosphere .
o The local authorities were co-operative, and complying with observers suggestions.
o Isolated accidents that were dealt by the local authorities .
? Spotted irregularities.
o In several of the observed cases the local election committee forgot to add the second stamp.
o In several cases (election point of Albanian minority) help of another person to a voter who is partially disabled (specifically, was not able to read or write) was not registered by the election committee in the diary.
o Some voters (election point of Albanian minority) have just signed and didn’t take and mark the ballot paper, those cases were neither fixed in the committee’s diary.
o In election point 2606 in Skopje the election committee forgot to register the foreign observers.
o In election point 2594 in Skopje the observers were registered after debate among the local committee. .
o Active agitation by a female Albanian voter on election point, which was interrupted after the discussion with the local committee (election point 2869) .
o In the election points 2869 and 2893 there were few cases when a voter got not one, but 2 or 3 ballot papers, and marked them all. This was not mentioned in the committee’s diary. .
? Technical problems.
o Some of the voting points were over crowded with administration observing the election process.
o In several cases the election booths were imperfectly located, and in the worst case, our observer was allowed to sit behind the voting booth, overseeing the voting.
? Recommendations on further improvement .
o Ballots to be smaller in size and packed in envelopes before leaving the booth (for secrecy) .